With my mom visiting me in Austin for my birthday I knew it was time to get one of my bucketlist meals off the list. Otoko is a 12 seat Japanese omakase style experience located in the South Congress Hotel. Omakase means “I’ll leave it up to you” and that is exactly what happens, you have no say in the menu! There are 20 courses, yes - 20 and the menu is ever changing based on daily ingredients. This is definitely a “splurge” experience with tickets being $150 per person but I will say it was WORTH IT. They can also accommodate a good amount of food restrictions (pescatarian, gluten free) which I think is impressive.
They even personalize the menu for every single person…and wished me a happy birthday! I will preface the rest of the blog post here - there are many ingredients in Japanese that I do not know the translation for, so I will give a rough description to the best of my ability :)
Up first was the Hassun course- this course features foods that are complimentary to each other in nature. Each of these pieces were recommended to be eaten in one bite (even the crab!). I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor and texture of the river crab (Sawagani) - it was smokey and reminded me a bit of softshell crabs.
Next was the Zensai course, which is similar to an hors d'oeuvre. This was escargot on a sushi rice cracker with onion, carrot, and chili.
Now it’s time for the sushi course which was 9 different “bites.” I did not take pictures of all of these because they place them directly in front of you after preparing and suggest you eat within 5-10 seconds to get the full flavor experience. And I’m not about to risk the quality of my meal for a few photos :) The ones I did photograph were the Shigoku Oyster with yuzu ponzu and smoked steelhead roe & the Hokkaido Uni with wasabi and white sturgeon caviar. Not pictured but one of my favorite bites of the night was the Kanpachi with meyer lemon zest!
Next we had the Mukouzuke courses which means “placed to the side” - basically dishes that are unappealing to the eye on their own, so they are made to look pretty. First was the Hirame with yuzu ponzu, Mexican marigold, lotus root chip and yamamomo.
Second was the smoked white sturgeon, asian pear, yo-shiro, dried shimeji, watermelon raddish and baby dinosaur kale.
The next two courses were Yakimono which is when pieces of meat are marinated and the grilled. The tofu tamale with turnip, yzukosho sumiso, bubu arare, mitsuba, tomatillo, and rainbow chard was up first. I love tofu so this was right up my alley!
Second was the Hamachi with smoked tamari that was grilled using binchotan (a white charcoal). This was cool to see the cook right in front of us with a large piece of the charcoal - it gave off a very smokey flavor that I loved!
Next up was the Mushimono course which refers to a dish that was steamed to cook. The one served at Otoko was a Chawanmushi (egg custard) with maitake, shrimp, mitsuba, ginkgo nut and truffle oil. I loved this dish - the ginko nuts were such a nice crunch compared to the smooth custard.
The Agemono course (deep-fried) was up next! We had tempura kohlrabi (german turnip) and kabocha (squash) with different seasonings. If you know me, you know my favorite way to eat veggies is deep-fried :)
We are ALMOST to dessert…but we have one course left before the sweets. Shirumono means “soups” and that was what this course was - a clear soup with sheephead (fish), yuzu oil and pine nut.
Dessert time! There were two dessert courses, the first being Mizumono which means “seasonal dessert.” This had nashi pear, hazelnut, passion fruit and yamamomo (berry). It was very light and refreshing!
And the FINAL dish of the night was the Kanmi course - Uni no Ikari (wrath of Uni). This was Uni ice cream!! How crazy is that?! Uni, for those of you who don’t know, is sea urchin. So I ended the night with sea urchin ice cream. It was very creamy and delicious - I would definitely eat it again!
Overall, Otoko was an AMAZING experience. If you have a special occasion coming up or just want a nice dinner in Austin I would highly recommend it. Such a memorable night and lucky I got to share it with my mom, she is just as adventurous of a foodie as me!